How to Become a Gardener: Back to Garden School

By Alex N

Wondering what to do with your life? Been made redundant? Fed up with the desk job and always dreamt of working outside or at a botanical gardens? Why not go back to garden school and become a gardener..

We explore whether becoming a gardener meets many people’s beautiful romantic vision of outdoor bliss, or is it in fact hard slave labour.  We wanted also to establish whether gardening is a skilled job?  Or as UK Prime Minister David Cameron suggests – gardening requires as much skill as collecting litter (clearly he’s not keeping up with the Obamas who don’t stop singing the praises of their vegetable garden.).  Do you have to love plants to become a gardener?  Here are some thoughts on how to become a gardener and what you might consider before taking the plunge.

So let’s look at the basics.  What skills do you need to become a gardener.  Clearly gardening’s about plants isn’t it?  So some botanical knowledge or experience of botanical gardens ought to be a bonus methinks.  So where do you get this from then?  Visiting botanical gardens? Is going to garden school a must?  Too many questions and not enough answers.  We decided to ask our expert MyGardenSchool tutors, what they thought the real path to becoming a gardener might be made of.  Interestingly – hardly anyone mentioned formal qualifications.  Nor money (or lack of it).  Many talked of passion, and also the need to learn from others who are experienced and share your passion for gardening.  Interestingly a natural curiosity crops up more than once too.  Curiouser and curioser…

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How to Become a Gardener


Caroline Tilston, Tutor for Decorating Your Garden (Interior Design Principals for Outside Space), and author of many best-selling books on gardening, puts her success as a garden designer and author down to an insatiable appetite to learn more.   She explains:  “Curiosity, an insatiable curiosity. The really wonderful, knowledgeable, inspirational gardeners I've met have all had that in common. Even after 30, 40 even 50 years of gardening these gardeners are still learning and excited by gardening.”  Tilston continues:  “There's a good army quote which works for gardening that goes something like -  If you want someone to remember for an hour - tell them. If you want them to remember for a week - show them. If you want them to remember for ever - let them do it.

Tilston continued:  “I trained as a gardener with the National Trust, hands on in a huge garden, and that has given me the confidence to teach, to answer questions, to write about gardens.  Because I've done it, I know it. And I know I'm doing it right because I had wonderful teachers.”  Inspiring advice for people considering garden school.

_MG_8689And Caroline’s not the only gardener we’ve come across who believes that to become a gardener, and even whilst going to a garden school, you can't beat getting your hands dirty.  We also asked MyGardenSchool’s Chief Blogger and Tutor, Andy McIndoe what he thought.  He ought to know, he runs one of the UK’s most successful garden centres, and has more than a handful of Gold Medals at The Chelsea Flower Show under his belt.   Here’s what Andy shared with us: “ True gardeners never stop learning, partly through their own hands on experience but more than anything else they learn from other gardeners.  That's actually what first appealed to me about the MyGardenSchool  online gardening courses too: they’re put together from first the first-hand experience of the tutors.

McIndoe continues:  “I also think that wherever you garden in the world you must always remember that there is no right or wrong way to do things in a garden - but there are often lots of different ways of achieving great results.  Gardening is an adventure: if you have a love of plants, some curiosity, like to nurture and have an eye for beauty you will make a great gardener. Whether you choose to study gardening on a course, or just get out there and have a go gardening should be fun - enjoy it.  Never see gardening as a chore - just feel good about gardening!"

So in our short investigation into what it takes to become a gardener, it seems that skills learnt from hands on experience, combined with some inspiring tutors, give you the magic ingredients to becoming a fulfilled and successful gardener.  If you want to dip your toe into the water of the gardening world, we’d be delighted to put you directly in touch to some of the most inspiring gardening experts in the world through MyGardenSchool’s online gardening courses at our garden school. All of our garden school tutors are happy to give personal career advice and references on a one-to-one basis, and discussion in the virtual classrooms.  Our tutors work with a full range of people wanting to learn -  ranging from enthusiastic hobby gardeners, to professional landscapers and garden designers, and those of you who want to pursue a career in gardening.

_MG_8619For further information on How to Become a Gardener, or if you are interested in going to garden school and taking a course, please book a gardening course, or if you have questions feel free to contact us at MyGardenSchool on  Your local botanical gardens is also usually a great place to ask for more information about work experience.

Worldwide there are now about 1800 botanical gardens in about 150 countries (mostly in temperate regions) of which about 400 are in Europe, 200 in North America, 150 in Russia.and an increasing number in East Asia. These gardens attract about 150 million visitors a year so it is hardly surprising that many people gained their first exciting introduction to the wonders of the plant world in a botanical garden Botanical Gardens we Recommend:  Oxford Botanical Gardens, Stokholm Botanical Gardens, New York Botanical Gardens, Cambridge Botanical Gardens, Kew Botanical Gardens.

Alex N

I'm passionate about online learning, and lucky enough to work for Learning with Experts. Most recent course: The Pie Shop with River Cottage's Tom Morrell. Next course: Container Gardening with Chris Beardshaw.

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